Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Glass Can Replace Expensive Crystals in Some Lasers

08.10.2003


...and bring high power to small packages


"Metal droplet levitated inside the Electrostatic Levitator (ESL). The ESL uses static electricity to suspend an object (about 2-3 mm in diameter) inside a vacuum chamber while a laser heats the sample until it melts. This lets scientists record a wide range of physical properties without the sample contacting the container or any instruments, conditions that would alter the readings. The Electrostatic Levitator is one of several tools used in NASA’s microgravity materials science program."
Credit: NASA


"The Electrostatic Levitator (ESL) Facility established at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) supports NASA’s Microgravity Materials Science Research Program. NASA materials science investigations include ground-based, flight definition and flight projects. Flight definition projects, with demanding science concept review schedules, receive highest priority for scheduling experiment time in the Electrostatic Levitator (ESL) Facility."
Credit: NASA



Researchers have developed a new family of glasses that will bring higher power to smaller packages in lasers and optical devices and provide a less-expensive alternative to many other optical glasses and crystals, like sapphire. Called REAl(tm) Glass (Rare-earth - Aluminum oxide), the materials are durable, provide a good host for atoms that improve laser performance, and may extend the range of wavelengths that a single laser can currently produce.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Containerless Research, Inc. (CRI), based in the Northwestern University Evanston Research Park in Illinois, recently developed the REAl(tm) Glass manufacturing process. NSF is now supporting the company to develop the glasses for applications in power lasers, surgical lasers, optical communications devices, infrared materials, and sensors that may detect explosives and toxins.


"NSF funded the technology at a stage when there were very few companies or venture capitalists that would have made the choice to invest," says Winslow Sargeant, the NSF officer who oversees CRI’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award. "We supported the REAl Glass research because we saw there was innovation there," adds Sargeant. "They are a great company with a good technology, so we provided seed money to establish the technology’s feasibility. Right now, we can say the feasibility is clear, and they’re one step closer to full-scale manufacturability," he says.

CRI originally developed the glasses with funding from NASA. The research used containerless processing techniques, including a specialized research facility-the Electrostatic Levitator-at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. With the NASA device, the researchers levitated the materials using static electricity and then heated the substances to extremely high temperatures. In that process, the materials were completely protected against contact with a surrounding container or other sources of contamination.

"The research that led to the development of REAl Glass concerned the nature and properties of ’fragile’ liquids, substances that are very sensitive to temperature and have a viscosity [or, resistance to flow] that can change rapidly when the temperature drops," says Richard Weber, the CRI principal investigator on the project.

REAl(tm) Glass, like many other glasses, is made from a supercooled liquid. This means that the liquid cooled quickly enough to prevent its atoms from organizing and forming a crystal structure. At lower temperatures, such as room temperature, the atoms are "fixed" in this jumbled, glassy state. In REAl(tm) Glass, the glass making process also provides a mechanism for incorporating rare-earth elements in a uniform way. This quality makes REAl Glass particularly attractive for laser applications.

After CRI scientists spent several years on fundamental research into fragile liquids, NSF provided funds to develop both patented glasses and proprietary manufacturing processes for combining the glass components in commercial quantities and at a much lower cost than for levitation melting. Using high temperature melting and forming operations, CRI is making REAl Glass in 10 mm thick rods and plates, establishing a basis for inexpensive, large scale production of sheet and rod products.

"The REAl(tm) Glass products are a new family of optical materials," says Weber, who adds that CRI is already meeting with businesses to talk about requirements for laser, infrared window, and other optical applications and supplying finished products or licensing the material for use.

"The REAl(tm) Glass technology combines properties of competing materials into one [material]," says NSF’s Sargeant. "With these glasses," he adds, "researchers can design smaller laser devices, because of the high power density that can be achieved, and can provide small, high-bandwidth devices for applications in the emerging fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) telecom market."

Because the glass can incorporate a variety of rare-earth elements into its structure, CRI can craft the glasses to yield specific properties, such as the ability to tune a laser across multiple light wavelengths. The ability to tune the light wavelength can have important implications for the lasers used in dental procedures and surgery, providing more control for operations involving skin shaping or cauterization.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research is supporting CRI’s research into applications, including materials for infrared waveguides and sensors needed to identify chemical components. CRI is also continuing basic research on fragile oxide liquids, which they believe still offer much potential for generating new materials, and ultimately, optical devices.

Josh Chamot | NSF
Further information:
http://www.containerless.com
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht From foam to bone: Plant cellulose can pave the way for healthy bone implants
19.03.2019 | University of British Columbia

nachricht Additive printing processes for flexible touchscreens: increased materials and cost efficiency
19.03.2019 | INM - Leibniz-Institut für Neue Materialien gGmbH

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

Im Focus: A thermo-sensor for magnetic bits

New concept for energy-efficient data processing technology

Scientists of the Department of Physics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, detected the magnetic states of atoms on a surface using only heat. The...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Heading towards a tsunami of light

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Dalian Coherent Light Source reveals hydroxyl super rotors from water photochemistry

19.03.2019 | Life Sciences

From foam to bone: Plant cellulose can pave the way for healthy bone implants

19.03.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>